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Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD or TMJ)
If you’re experiencing frequent headaches, back and neck pain, dull aching facial pain, or popping in your jaw you are not alone. Approximately 35 million people in the United States suffer from TMJ problems. While both men and women experience TMJ disorders, the majority of those seeking treatment are women in their 20’s and 30’s. Many believe stress or a busy lifestyle is to blame but do not realize that these symptoms are often related to their jaw muscles and their jaw joint known as the temporomandibular joint or TMJ. Your bite can be a factor in many types of pain or functional problems because of the inter-relationship of the overall muscle and skeletal system.
What is TMD?
TMD is a condition involving the temporomandibular joint, bone and cartilage resembling a ball-and-socket that sits right above your ear canal on either side of your head. When the joint slips out of position, pain can result, and TMD is characterized by clicking or popping of the jaw when you open or close your mouth, persistent headaches, and sometimes chronic pain. We have many patients who come to us complaining of headaches, jaw and facial pain as well as pain in the ears, never realizing that their pain was caused by a misalignment in their jaw. Some people, however, report no pain, but still have problems using their jaws.
Causes of TMD
The cause of TMD is not clear, but dentists believe that symptoms arise from problems with the muscles of the jaw or with the parts of the joint itself.
Macrotrauma to the jaw, temporomandibular joint, or muscles of the head and neck such as from a heavy blow or whiplash are common causes of TMD. Other possible microtraumas include:
- Grinding or clenching the teeth, which puts a lot of pressure on the TMJ
- Tooth loss, misalignment of teeth
- Dislocation of the soft cushion or disc between the ball and socket
- Presence of osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis in the TMJ
- Stress, which can cause a person to tighten facial and jaw muscles or clench the teeth
- Chewing gum excessively or biting your nails can inflame your temporomandibular joint and may cause TMD.
Signs and Symptoms
- Jaw Joint Pain
- Jaw Joint Noise or Clicking
- Limited Mouth Opening
- Ear Congestion
- Ringing in Ears
- Difficulty Swallowing
- Loose Teeth
- Clenching or Grinding
- Facial Pain
- Sensitive Teeth
- Chewing Difficulties
- Neck Pain
- Postural Problems
- Tingling in Fingertips
- Hot & Cold Teeth Sensitivity
- Nervousness or Insomnia
Diagnosis and treatment for TMD, utilizes advanced technologies such as Cone Beam Volumetric Tomography, K-7 Electromyography and TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Neural Stimulation). With TENS, electrodes are applied to the patient’s jaw, neck and shoulder areas. TENS sends a painless electrical current that increases blood flow to the joint, relieves stiffness, improves mobility, and acts as a drug-free pain reliever.
TMD ApplianceBy using TENS, Dr. Willey is able to confuse the muscle memory and find the optimum true rest position for the jaw. A custom made appliance called a neuromuscular orthotic is created to promote healing and maintain the new, corrected bite position.
Permanent stabilization may be necessary and can be determined after Step One. Options may include wearing a long term orthotic, providing orthodontic treatment, placing crowns or veneers on the affected teeth, or creating a neuromuscular denture. With the techniques and technologies of neuromuscular dentistry, we can help you achieve a healthier bite, more comfortable muscles and jaw joints, and a beautiful smile.